The most common adverse effects that children who grow up in residential care experience include: developmental delays; behavioural problems; attachment disorders; lack of life skills; institutionalisation; and difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships. The literature is extremely clear that residential care should be a last resort for children separated from their parents, following family support, community support, and fostering. As such, the literature strongly supports deinstitutionalisation and reintegration of families whenever possible and provision of extra support to families as the best intervention. Evidence shows that many children can recover from problems experienced in residential care when placed in family care environments, although they have incomplete catch-up compared to their never-institutionalised peers. This paper does not review deinstitutionalisation, but instead provides a few examples of interventions which have improved the quality of care in residential homes, as an immediate response or precursor to deinstitutionalisation.
K4D helpdesk reports provide summaries of current research, evidence and lessons learned. This report was commissioned by the UK Department for International Development.
Browne, E. (2017). Children in care institutions. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.